Mayor Bill de Blasio rode the New York City subway yesterday (for a quick four-minute trip) in an effort to reassure New Yorkers daily life is safe as companies, universities, and local governments enact measures to confront an uptick in confirmed coronavirus cases and, like de Blasio, attempt to calm fears.
By Friday, the global infection number hit nearly 100,000, with more than 231 reported in the United States.
"Isn't it a great idea that the New York subway is getting disinfected and cleaned up?" Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University focused on infectious disease, preventative medicine, and immunization policy, joked on Cheddar Friday.
Schaffner said taking steps like sanitizing the subway system "may play a small role in mitigating the transmission of this virus, but it signals to people that we ought to be functioning as we can and doing the things we can do."
He added, "We can't do this perfectly, but we surely should emphasize the things that we can do," like taking extra precautions for at-risk individuals with underlying health conditions and washing hands often.
But Americans are confronting the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. by altering everyday behavior like stopping airline travel and clearing out store shelves in "calamity capitalism" David Sanders, owner of survival gear shop Doomsday Prep, told Slate, even as officials attempt to warn risk remains low.
President Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency aid bill after being confirmed by both the House and Senate. Trump will visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta today after a White House official had initially announced the trip's cancellation. The president explained that the CDC had thought they may have had a diagnosed case on its hands, which turned out to be negative.
Schaffner said when it comes to travel "the first thing we ought to do is consider whether this is essential travel. Is it business? Is it recreational? Do we really need to do this?" But he added that if someone does decide to travel, "avoid people who are coughing or sneezing and really do good hand hygiene constantly."
The Trump administration has said it is still safe to travel domestically but advises against traveling to nations confronting major outbreaks. Meanwhile, in Hubei province, where coronavirus cases were first confirmed, it was reported that there were no new infections outside of the capital city of Wuhan, suggesting China's measures to contain the virus may be paying off.
"The reality check is that soap and water works wonderfully well and we can all take a deep breath and step back a little bit. It's not going to hit us all simultaneously," Schaffner said.